A former Apple engineer has been accused of stealing Apple’s self-driving car technology and fleeing to China, nearly five years after the incident took place.
Prosecutors allege Weibao Wang, 35, stole thousands of files containing proprietary information while working covertly for an undisclosed Chinese company
The indictment charges him with six counts of theft or attempted theft of trade secrets.
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According to the U.S. Justice Department, Wang, who joined Apple in March 2016 as part of the autonomous systems technology development team, secretly took source code documents related to the software and hardware powering the self-driving systems.
While still employed at Apple, he accepted a job offer from a Chinese-based company involved in self-driving car development, without Apple’s knowledge, and left the company in April 2018.
Law enforcement officials searched Wang’s home in Mountain View, California, in June 2018 and discovered a significant amount of Apple data related to self-driving car technology stored on his devices.
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Despite initially telling authorities he had no intention of leaving the United States, Wang purchased a one-way ticket from San Francisco to Guangzhou, China, on the same day of the search.
U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey of the Northern District of California said in a press conference that Wang remains in China, and if he were ever extradited and convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison for each of the six charges.
This case marks the third instance in which a former Apple employee has been accused of stealing autonomous technology secrets for China.
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In similar incidents, Xiaolang Zhang pleaded guilty last year in a San Jose court after being arrested in 2018 while attempting to board a flight to China, while Jizhong Chen, another ex-Apple employee, is currently facing similar charges.
Apple has not responded to requests for comment on the matter.
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